Police: Plattsburgh man intentionally set himself on fire
PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. -
Catherine Gates says her neighbor has talked about burning his side of their duplex trailer down for the past week.
"He said I'm going to torch it," Gates said. "I didn't take him seriously. Who the hell, who is going to believe somebody would snap like that and do that?"
She says Daniel Burke has been noticeably agitated lately due to a number of personal issues, including a recent arrest on child sex abuse allegations.
"He promised me he would never do anything to hurt me or make me lose my home," Gates said.
But Burke's problems got worse Wednesday evening when he was arrested for alleged drunk driving downtown. He was processed at the station. A friend brought him to his home on Charles Way. Shortly after, a neighbor called police claiming they heard Burke breaking glass.
"They went to that location; they could see Mr. Burke inside the trailer. They tried to get him at the door, they knocked, he turned the lights off and then the officers could see flames," Plattsburgh Police Lt. Pat Rascoe said.
Two officers then forced their way into the home. They fought off the smoke and flames in an effort to locate Burke. They found him in his bedroom and on fire. They then dragged him outside.
"They were able to roll him on the ground and put out the flames on his body," Rascoe said.
Seconds later the home burst into flames. Police believe it had been doused with a flammable liquid. The fire was so intense it ignited part of a neighboring trailer and melted the siding on another home. Burke is hospitalized with first- and second-degree burns over half of his body. Four police officers were treated for smoke inhalation.
"I'm going to get through it; I'll get back on my feet," Gates said.
The fire left Gates homeless. Her side of the duplex was severely damaged, too. She's just grateful to have escaped with her pets and a few personal belongings.
"All of a sudden I'm homeless," Gates said. "I'm going to be 59 years old, I should not be homeless."
The Red Cross is finding her temporary shelter.
Once Burke recovers from his burns, police expect to charge him with arson.